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March 2009

Sad man sitting on bed

Photo by r.f.m II

Well, it happens sometimes.

I find myself in a lousy mood. Hard to say where it started, but it certainly has something to do with not getting much sleep Saturday night. I had big plans for Sunday, but the day was compromised by my zombie state. I think my IQ shrunk about thirty points from normal, for the whole day. I did everything wrong. I cooked badly, I conversed badly, I wrote badly.

My funk cruised on through today too. Work was a real slog, even though everything I needed to do was easy. I was working outside, which I normally enjoy. I wanted to go home. I wanted some Belgian chocolate. I wanted the Sun to f**k off.

Today I was going to write a more in-depth post on another topic, but when I sat down to do it, it was like pulling teeth. I know I could have churned out something, but it would have been a crusty, callous little post. I just couldn’t resonate with what I was had planned to write about, so I asked myself The Big Question: “Given my dreams and goals in life, what is honestly the smartest way to spend my next 30 minutes?” My answer came: Write about what you can resonate with right now. So I decided to put my crap mood to good use.  Read More

Dylan and friends

Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without. ~Confucius

I just took a look at CNN’s site and it was, as usual, boasting its favorite palette of troublesome nouns and verbs. Terror, death, murder, destruction, Bush. People do bad things sometimes; it’s not really news, I know. But contrary to popular notions, I think war, exploitation and violence are not the results of our differences. Rather, they are the result of our most pervasive similarity: that we all suffer, and none of us want to.

No, these ‘news’ items aren’t new. They are the same patterns of anguish that have recurred continually throughout all cultures, across all generations: lost love, fear, alienation, self-loathing and jealousy. Being human just hurts sometimes. Despite our surface differences, we’re all in the same boat. We all want the same two things: to fulfill our desires and to avoid suffering. These two motivations, and the behavior they inspire, comprise the human condition. There is nobody on this earth with whom you don’t have at least those two things in common. Read More

Tick tock

When I was a teenager I might have identified money as my most valuable resource.  I don’t think that’s extraordinarily naive, I mean it did always help to bring me the things I wanted: freedom, influence, power, comfort, beer.  It’s so versatile you can do just about anything with it.  More money meant more ease, more pleasure, more happiness.

As I got older and busier I learned, as many do, that time trumps money by a long shot.  One can use time not only to make money, but also to build the capacity for making more money in less time, by improving skills and setting up streams of income.  Not only that, but extra time gives you the temporal space to enjoy the privileges and powers you already have.  More time means more freedom, more options, and less stress.

Unlike money, everyone is ultimately on a level playing field when it comes to time.  We all get the same allowance of twenty-four hours a day.  Just as there are ineffective ways of investing your money, there are ineffective ways of investing your time.  Read More


Recently I was surfing an online forum, and I came across something that almost made me cry. Somebody had dug up an old, old post of mine and replied to it. Sometimes new users on a forum don’t look at the date on a old post, and they respond to it as if it were still relevant, so the post goes to the top of the first page in the list, even if it’s years old.

Those of you who read online forums have seen this happen many times, I’m sure, and so had I. But this one gave me an instant lump in the throat.

The post was called, “My Struggle.”

The desperate tone of the post stunned me. I couldn’t believe it was me.

In it, I had spilled my guts to everyone who would listen, over my dissatisfaction with myself and my life. I hated how I never finished anything, never got on a roll, never got good at what I wanted to be good at. I was not able to accept myself, because to accept myself meant that what I was doing (and failing to do) was fine.  Read More

wilting flower

Would you rather vacation in Rome, or get your closet organized?  Quit your job and make a living doing what you love, or take back your library books a week early?

Each of us spends a full twenty-four hours, every day, doing something.  Each of the hundreds of actions you take in a day supposedly brings you closer to something you want.  You get groceries because you want to be able to make supper later.  You sleep because you want to be well rested.

We spend much of our time on the simple everyday tasks required to keep our life afloat, such as working to pay the bills, tidying up, organizing, fixing, shopping.  Maintenance of all sorts.

But most of us also spend some time working towards grander outcomes: traveling to exotic countries, building a business or a dream career, buying a sailboat or mastering some skill or craft.  Some people are more focused on these things than others, but we all have dreams.

Here’s a negative pattern I’ve observed in myself that you can probably identify with, along with a way to stop it dead in its tracks. Read More

A foreigner

“Children are all foreigners.”

-R.W. Emerson

Children have a precious talent. They become enamored so easily, and by anything. Take a walk through a park with a young child, and it doesn’t take long before he’s stopped, crouched on the side of the path, captivated by a red leaf or line of marching ants. Wide-eyed and oblivious to you and everything else, he just watches.  He’s become enraptured by a curious sight that is — to him — a miracle.

About six years ago, when I was at my most miserable and unpleasant, I remember being asked by a concerned family member, “Well when were you happy?”

I had to think about it. “When I was a kid,” I answered, vaguely aware that it was not really an exaggeration. In particular I remembered the feeling of sheer abundance of summer break: sixty straight days of nothing but exploration and imagination. Read More

Leaf with droplets

It’s one of life’s best highs. That certain freshness you find only in new experiences. Getting off the plane in a new country, settling back as the lights dim before the movie starts, driving your new car off the lot.

Of course, it soon goes stale. We’ve all had the experience of excitedly tearing the gift wrapping off a new toy, only to be bored with it a week later. Even adults do this.

Why is it only that good when it’s new? And is there any way of finding that freshness in something that isn’t brand new?

I’ve discovered a few ways, but the one I’m about to share is especially interesting.  Read More

Forlorn statue

Now, I don’t know all 6.5 billion of you out there, but of the few hundred people that I do know, I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t like to be happy.  I think we all have that in common.

Type “Happiness” into Amazon’s book search and you’ll get over 350,000 results.  For some reason, humans have a lot of trouble being happy.  There’s no question that we all want it, so why are we so bad at it?  With such universal demand, you’d think we’d have it figured out by now.

There seems to be some persistent force that keeps us unhappy.  It’s almost like humans have some curious fetish with dissatisfaction. Read More

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